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Reviews

BlueAnt Wireless X5 Stereo Bluetooth Headset

By Legacy July 31, 2006, 12:00 am

INTRODUCTION

    Over the last year the Bluetooth Advanced Audio Distribution (A2DP), and Audio Video Remote Control (AVRCP) profiles, which provide near CD quality stereo wireless audio transmission and remote control, have finally started to gain momentum in the marketplace and are coming of age. pocketnow.com has reviewed a number of A2DP compliant headsets such as the Motorola HT820 Bluetooth stereo headphones, the GlobalSat BTH-820 kits, the Bluetake Technology BT450Rx, and the IOGEAR Bluetooth headset. According to a June 22, 2006 Business Wire article, global Bluetooth headset sales will grow 70% in 2006, and 1 in 8 Bluetooth enabled phones will support A2DP. BlueAnt Wireless, Australia’s largest supplier of Bluetooth peripheral devices, entered the U.S. market last month with a number of Bluetooth enabled products. The X5 Stereo Bluetooth Headset is one of those. Let’s see how well they perform with my trusty T-Mobile MDA with the A2DP enabled AKU 2.3 based ROM!

SETUP

   The BlueAnt X5 Stereo Bluetooth headset comes as a kit and includes all the components required to stream music via A2DP even with non compliant devices.


The X5 Stereo Bluetooth Headset package.

Everything but the kitchen sink.

    The two major components are the voice enabled audio streamer on the left and the X5 stereo Bluetooth headset on the right. Pairing the headset and the audio streamer involves placing both devices in pairing mode. The headset is placed in pairing mode by holding the power and track/volume up until the LED flashes blue and red. It is a shame that no standard exists for placing devices in pairing mode. All the other audio devices (with no keypad or keyboard) I have used, enabled pairing mode by pressing and holding the power button for 3 – 5 seconds. The X5 stereo Bluetooth headset can store connection information for up to 10 different devices. The audio streamer does adhere to what I consider the de-facto pairing mode standard, pressing and holding the power button until the LED flashes red and blue.

    Pairing with the Microsoft Bluetooth stack on Windows Mobile 5.0 requires the entry of a passcode of "1234." This passcode is different than most other audio devices I have used which use a passcode of "0000." Unfortunately the lack of standardization of the passcode limits the devices that the X5 stereo Bluetooth headsets can be paired with. Only those devices that have a passcode of "1234" built in or a keyboard can be paired successfully. I was unable to pair with the Motorola DC800 we reviewed here, the GlobalSat iWAG we reviewed here or the GlobalSat Audio Gateway we reviewed here.

    The connection process with Windows Mobile 5.0 requires the user to access the Bluetooth settings tap and hold on the X5 stereo Bluetooth headset entry and tap on "Set as Wireless Stereo." The headset with a music note icon will appear momentarily at the top of screen when the connection is successful. The flashing blue LED on the X5 stereo Bluetooth headset will also turn off indicating a successful connection.

PRODUCT FEATURES

    The X5 stereo Bluetooth headset are very well designed and constructed.

    The X5 stereo Bluetooth headset folds into a very compact package for traveling. The right earpiece contains all the control. The Multi Function Button (MFB) (1) provides playback, pause and place/accept a call functions. The two buttons on the edge of the earpiece provide the track/volume up (2) and track/volume down (5) functions. The smaller button across from the MFB provides the power, stop, and end call functions (3). The recharge and microphone plug (4) uses a mini USB female. The user replaceable battery in the left earpiece can be recharged with the included USB cable or power adapter. A full charge will last 12 hours.

The X5 stereo Bluetooth headset are more compact than the Motorola HT820 while providing virtually the same size earpiece and headband.

I tested the Motorola HT820 with the latest ROM (2.26) available for the T-Mobile MDA (a.k.a. HTC Wizard). Playing the Dixie Chicks’ "I am not ready to make nice" the decibel meter averaged 81db at full volume.

The same track on the X5 stereo Bluetooth headset averaged 92db, 11db higher. This is the loudest Bluetooth headset I have tried. The sound fidelity is very good but tends to be biased towards the high frequencies.

The X5 stereo Bluetooth headset come with two choices of earpiece covers. On the left a foam cover and on the right a cushioned donut.

The microphone is separate and is plugged into the mini USB outlet on the right earpiece.

    This gives the headset a slightly geeky look, however the microphone and DSP processing provides much better voice quality then all the Bluetooth stereo headsets I have tested. I was not able to initiate the voice dialing application on the T-Mobile MDA, it would only dial the last number available. The results with a Motorola Razr were the same. The Motorola HT820 Bluetooth stereo headphones initiate voice dialing on the T-Mobile MDA and the Razr.

    The audio streamer can be used to stream music from a PC or any audio device with a stereo output jack, however the Bluetooth AVRCP remote control functions won’t be available. The audio streamer and X5 stereo Bluetooth headset will work with most voice applications like Skype and MSN Messenger. I tried the combination with MSN messenger and the voice quality was excellent.

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HELP SUPPORT

    The BlueAnt Wireless web site has a support contact page here and a US toll free number 866.891.3032. The well written manual, along with an FAQ document can be downloaded in PDF format here. I asked a couple questions via the support contact form, and received satisfactory responses within 24 hours.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

    The X5 stereo Bluetooth headphones and audio streamer will work with any audio device that has an audio output jack. They will pair with Bluetooth enabled devices that support the Hands Free Profile (HFP), the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), and the Audio Video Remote Control Profiles (AVRCP) with the ability to use a passcode of "1234".

BUGS AND WISHES

   
My only problem with the headphones was with the embedded passcode of "1234" I use multiple Bluetooth enabled audio devices from different vendors, they all use "0000." As Bluetooth technology becomes more pervasive, vendors will have to inter-operate with each others products. "0000" seems to be a de-facto standard, it is time for Blueant Wireless to adopt it. One of the great features of the X5 stereo Bluetooth headset is the ability to update the firmware, so modifying the passcode should be a snap.

I have three wishes for the X5 stereo Bluetooth headset:

  • The ability to adjust the equalization. I find the current setting tilted towards the high frequencies.
  • The ability to automatically connect to the last device used. You have to manually initiate a connection from a Windows Mobile 5.0 device.
  • The ability to initiate the voice speed dial application in Windows Mobile 5.0.

PURCHASING

    The X5 stereo Bluetooth headset can be purchased on the Internet for as low as $102.00. The Blueant Wireless web site has links to the major internet stores here.


PROS


  • Headset is foldable

  • Stores up to 10 Bluetooth device pairings

  • Upgradeable firmware capability

  • User replaceable battery

CONS


  • No storage pouch

  • Uses different fixed passcode than most vendors

  • No automatic connection with Windows Mobile 5.0

Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean?

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OVERALL IMPRESSION

    The X5 stereo Bluetooth headset has a lot going for it: excellent volume, good microphone voice quality, a folding design for compact storage, memory for 10 paired devices, upgradeable firmware capability, and user replaceable batteries. I have been using them for two weeks and I so wanted to give them a rating of 5, however there are a some items that are bothersome. The inability to pair the headphones with devices like the Motorola DC800 home stereo adapter and the GlobalSat iWag iPod adapter because Blueant Wireless chose "1234" as their passcode rather than the generally accepted standard of "0000" forces me back to my Motorola HT820 Bluetooth stereo headphones for my stereo and iPod. Second, the inability to automatically connect to my T-Mobile MDA. And, third the inability to automatically start the voice speed dial application. The Motorola HT820 does both. Overall the X5 stereo Bluetooth headset edge out the Motorola HT820, with a firmware upgrade they would be the best pair of Bluetooth headphones currently in the marketplace.

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